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Record likely for solo children stopped

China Daily | Updated: 2021-08-04 09:46
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Asylum-seeking migrant families from Central America disembark from an inflatable raft in Roma, Texas, after crossing the Rio Grande River into the United States from Mexico on Thursday. GO NAKAMURA/REUTERS

SAN DIEGO, California-The number of children traveling alone who were picked up at the Mexican border by immigration authorities of the United States likely hit an all-time high in July, according to official data. Citing preliminary government figures, a US official said on Monday that the number of people who came in families likely reached its second-highest total on record.

The sharp increases from June were striking because crossings usually slow down during stifling-and sometimes fatal-summer heat.

David Shahoulian, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security, said the authorities likely picked up more than 19,000 unaccompanied children in July, exceeding the previous high of 18,877 in March. The June total was 15,253.

The number of people arriving in families is expected to be about 80,000 in July. That is a little shy of the all-time high of 88,857 in May 2019, but up from 55,805 in June.

Overall, the US authorities stopped migrants about 210,000 times at the border in July, the highest in more than 20 years and up from 188,829 in June. But the numbers are not directly comparable because many repeatedly crossed under a pandemic-related ban that expels people from the country immediately without giving them a chance to seek asylum but carries no legal consequences.

Overwhelming numbers

The activity was overwhelmingly concentrated in the Border Patrol's Del Rio and Rio Grande Valley sectors in south Texas, accounting for more than seven of 10 people who came in families.

In the Rio Grande Valley sector, the epicenter of the current surge, agents stopped migrants about 78,000 times in July, up from 59,380 in June and 51,149 in May.

The government disclosures came in a court filing hours after immigrant advocacy groups resumed a legal battle to end the government's authority to expel families at the border on grounds of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

The final count for July border arrests will not be expected for several days, but preliminary numbers are usually close. Over the first 29 days of July, authorities encountered a daily average of 6,779 people, including 616 unaccompanied children and 2,583 who came in families.

The number of people stopped in families is expected to hit an all-time high for the 2021 fiscal year that ends Sept 30. Shaoulian said it will likely be higher if courts order the pandemic-related powers to be lifted.

The rising numbers have strained holding facilities. Border Patrol had 17,778 people in custody on Sunday, despite a COVID-19 adjusted capacity of 4,706. The Rio Grande Valley sector was holding 10,002 of them.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups said on Monday that they were ending settlement talks with the Joe Biden administration over their demand to lift the pandemic-related ban on families seeking asylum.

Agencies via Xinhua

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